You went to CMAA in Tamworth. I’ve heard about that and about Camarata – they’re separate, aren’t they?
They’re now actually joined.
Ah … I’m kind of curious as to what a typical day would have been like for you at CMAA.
Oh man. You can quote me on this one: we ate, slept and breathed country music for 14 days. It was amazing. There’s not much else I can say other than that there was no end to the amount of information – not just [about] country music as a craft but as a business, and about contacts, about … just everything to do with it. It was one of the most amazing experiences – if not the most amazing experience – of my life, except for a couple of shows that I’ve done that are probably on par, because this college sets apart the kids from the adults. It’s pretty amazing.
It would certainly sort out, I guess, whether or not you’re committed to continuing to do it, because it’s not easy to establish a career.
And a lot of people just don’t have ‘it’. They may have the talent, but you need to be more than just talented – you need to apply yourself.
Well, you have to, and that’s what they teach you. You’ve got to have the drive and you’ve got to be thinking outside the box to really be able to capitalise on what you do as a musician, as a performer, because a lot of the things – and this is what we were teaching to these kids – you can be the most amazing guitarist in the world but if no one knows about you, then what’s the point? You might be an okay singer – or a great singer who can play a little bit of guitar, and a lot of people can do that – and all you’ve got to do is market yourself well, build great relationships with all the people in the industry and never give up. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked back, just keep getting back on the horse, because if you have that determination – and I believe I have that sort of determination – then there’s no reason why you can’t succeed.
I guess it’s also understanding the contract between the performer and the audience. I don’t know if you know Rufus Wainwright’s music – and he’s not country music …
Yes, I know about Rufus. He did an amazing cover of ‘Hallelujah’.
Yes he did! And when his first album came out – and he’s from a performing family – I remember reading on this very rudimentary website, him saying something like, ‘My job is to be a performer and if I don’t do that, then I’ve failed’. For him it wasn’t about how good the record was or how many he’d sold, it was about in that moment, with the audience, that’s it.
That’s a beautiful quote. From a purely business point of view, you can count numbers – you can count the number of people who like you on Facebook and all that stuff. But for me as a performer, the conversion rate of you as a musician playing on a stage to a whole bunch of amazing into-your-music kind of people, who cares about the sales? It’s that moment. That’s the thing – and I always say this to everyone – my home is on the stage. That’s where I feel the most comfortable as a human, is on that stage. Because I know that it’s my job to perform to those people, and if those people are having a bad day or some trouble in their lives, or just want to escape for a moment from the mundane part of life that we all know about, they go to a concert and they’re just rockin’ out, they’re enjoying it, they’re having a couple of drinks, they’re enjoying themselves – but if the band is crap they’re just going to have a couple of drinks and go home to the same problems. They’re going to be changed for those couple of hours that you’re spending with them, just because you’re on the stage giving them everything that you have and then walking off the stage saying, ‘Man, I’m so tired but that was so worth it’.
It quite often has the power to change just beyond those two hours. Part of the role of art and, particularly, performance in a culture is to change people. That they have a moment when they think, either ‘I’ve been made so happy by that that I want to see it again’, or ‘I’ve been made so happy by that that I want to participate in it’, and they might then change the way they live. Which is really an extraordinary thing to do.
One of the most extraordinary parts about sharing your abilities and crafts with someone is the ability to be able to change lives like that too.
And you’re now playing a few nights a week, is that right? You’ve decided to become a full-time musician?
Yeah, I took the leap of faith about two years ago now and I now play three to four days a week as a musician, and I sit down and I always think – I stop myself every couple of days and go, ‘You’re seriously living the best life. You get to play music for people – people pay you to play music – and you get to enjoy yourself and see people enjoy themselves, and then go home and work on the other side of your career and actually do something you love.’ I am one of the most blessed and honoured people and humbled people by just the fact that I get to do what I get to do every single day, which is brilliant.
That’s very cool. And you don’t often hear people say that about their lives.
No! You know what? Probably 80 per cent of the time you hear how crap people’s lives are and you just think, ‘Well, I must have the best life’, and I just constantly remind myself, ‘You have the best life. This is the best life that you get to lead, and you’re just blessed that you get to do it.’
Which is also great because it means that whatever happens for you now, it sounds like it couldn’t make you any happier with your life, it’s just going to be different experiences that expand what you’re doing.
Exactly. I have a few goals – I have a whole bunch of goals that I want to achieve – but in my own heart I know that right now I’m happy. But the thing about success and moving forward is that you never get too content. I’m so happy where I am but there’s so much more that I want to do with life. Like I really want to release my album fairly soon and I really just want to tour and play every place I possibly can, and then tour Europe and stuff like that. So many other goals. But right now, as a human being, I am pretty darn happy.